Robert Schumann

“One will have to admit that in this Leipzig, in its nature treated in such a step-motherly way, German music is blooming such that – without seeming immodest– it can easily compete with the richest and largest fruit- and flower gardens of other cities. What an abundance of excellent works of art was shown us again just this past winter, how many prominent artists pleased us with their art!”

Robert Schumann spent about sixteen years between 1828 and 1844 in Leipzig. In the fall of 1840 he introduced an extensive article about the “music life in Leipzig during the winter of 1839-40” which he published in the “New Journal of Music,” a publication he founded in 1834. 

He had (half-heartedly) started his law studies in Leipzig, as well as piano studies (these interested him greatly) with Friedrich Wieck in 1828, in whose home he had met the then-nine-year-old, Clara. In the ensuing years, he expanded his repertoire knowledge (“Franz Schubert and Beethoven appeared to me; Bach was beginning to dawn”) and composed.  In 1830 he chose a musical career path and desired to become a piano virtuoso, under Friedrich Wieck’s instruction.

Friedrich Wieck to Robert Schumann’s mother (1830): “I pledge that, given his talent and imagination, your son, Robert, will be trained by myself within three years to be one of the greatest living pianists of today, who will play with more wit and warmth than Moscheles and with more excellence than Hummel.”  

He occupies two rooms at Friedrich Wieck’s in the Grimmaische Gasse 36, taking part in theoretical studies with Kapellmeister Heinrich Dorn for a short time, and composing. A finger paralysis stemming from excessive practicing puts an early end to his career as a pianist in 1832; instead, he then intensifies his composing activities.  Schumann’s first works are published in the early 1830s (Abegg Variations, Papillons, Toccata, Intermezzi, Impromptus, etc.)  He composes the Carnaval op. 9 and the Symphonic Etudes op. 13 (1835), Scenes from Childhood op. 15, Kreisleriana op. 16 and Novelletes op. 21 (1838).

His friendship and love to the young pianist Clara comes under a great deal of scrutiny – Wieck forbids his daughter from association of any kind with Schumann, which certainly does not keep her from entering into a secret engagement with him in 1837.  It all culminates to a court trial against Wieck in 1839/40, during which Schumann and Clara are finally able to extract court permission to marry.  The day before Clara’s 21st birthday, on September 12th 1840, they finally marry in the village church of Schönefeld near Leipzig.

1840 is referred to as Schumann’s “Year of Song” – besides the larger song cycles (with texts by Eichendorff, Heine, Kerner, Rückert, Chamisso, among others) this year also brings about most of his songs for solo voice.

The Symphony in B-flat Major op. 38 (“Spring Symphony”) emerges in 1841 and is premiered in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig under Mendelssohn’s baton on March 31st 1841, subsequently becoming one of his most-performed compositions.  Further, the first version of his Symphony in D Minor appears, as well as the first movement of the piano concerto in A Minor.  During the year that follows, Schumann accompanies his wife on a concert tour to Northern Germany (Clara continues on to Copenhagen); in the fall, he suffers from a nervous disability. The Three String Quartets, Op. 41, the Piano Quintet, Op. 44 as well as the Piano Quartet, Op. 47 all appear during this so-called “Chamber Music Year.”  In 1843, Schumann is appointed by Mendelssohn to be an instructor at the newly founded Leipzig Conservatory.  That same year, he is reconciled to his father-in-law Friedrich Wieck.  From January until May 1844 he and Clara embark on a concert tour to Russia, which causes him extreme physical and psychological strain – at the end of the year, the Schumann family moves to Dresden.